In the fall of 1812, America needed allies for the continuing war with Great Britain. Spain would have proved a worthy confederate, if not for the recent diplomatic and territorial disputes with the United States. During America’s first war with Great Britain, Spanish aid was so important towards gaining independence that George Washington repeatedly wrote to King Carlos III after the war to thank him. As war with Britain loomed again, however, most Americans held out little hope for a similar alliance. American and Spanish interests had parted company in the years since Washington’s correspondence because of growing American appetites for pieces of Spain’s declining New World empire.
As the piercing summer heat tightened its sultry grip across much of the Mississippi Territory, white settlers and both their friendly and hostile Creek neighbors looked on with interest to the rising war fever across the region. The June newspapers carried the word that most wanted to hear. Bowing to the growing pressure, Pres. James Madison declared war on Great Britain on June 19, 1812, writing:
On March 13, 1812, angry North Carolinians warned their countrymen “that the system of tyranny pursued towards our Country by the British nation ought no longer to be borne with; and that a continuation in peace with the British nation, on such terms, would be degrading to our national character.” With the rising impressments of American sailors, tensions rose, too. Such fiery rhetoric was increasingly common and indicated the growing war spirit across the South and trans-Appalachian West.
While Tecumseh raged against white intrusion and the Creeks debated war, settlers continued to pour into the Mississippi Territory. What drove so many people to continue to risk the perils of travel to this volatile region? Commercial opportunity. In the first two decades after the Constitution’s ratification, the population of the seaboard states was growing at a ponderous rate. The best land was long since settled, forcing those who hoped to buy choice, inexpensive land to consider the trans-Appalachian West.
In October 1811 at the Creek town of Tukabatchee, on the banks of the Tallapoosa River, the so-called National Council gathered to consider if and how to take advantage of the Federal Road. The famed Shawnee Chief Tecumseh rose to address the leaders present from a number of the various Creek tribes living in the Mississippi Territory, and the assembly grew quiet.
As the sultry heat of summer 1811 deepened across the Mississippi Territory, a dark warning came in the news. In August the Indiana Territorial Assembly and its governor—future U.S. President William Henry Harrison—gathered in Vincennes and listened as renowned Shawnee leader Tecumseh ("Shooting Star") announced his coming plans:
In 1811 Creek Indians living in the Mississippi Territory faced a cultural identity crisis. White Americans continued to pour into the northern and southern reaches of their lands, putting up permanent settlements in places like Huntsville. Worse, some Creeks seemed far too accommodating of American territorial expansion.
In early 1811 many people from crowded eastern states were drawn to the rich bottomland of northern Alabama. Shortly after President Madison took office in early 1809, the U.S. government had ordered land sales in this part of the future state to raise money and encourage settlement for its development.
The October 16, 1810, edition of the Washingtonian carried exciting news for any settler looking to the Mississippi Territory for new opportunities: “About the middle of August orders from the secretary of the war department arrived at the post of Fort Stoddard commanding Col. Richard Sparks to detach two commissioned officers, four noncommissioned, and twenty privates, to form two companies for the purpose of exploring between that place and Highwasee (sic), taking a survey of the distance, and learning every particular they possibly can, respecting soil, growth, water, & c.” In the weeks ahead, the United States Army would complete a detailed survey to promote further settlement in the Mississippi Territory.
In the summer of 1810, Creeks in the Mississippi Territory watched with growing apprehension as white settlers continued to pour down the Federal Road into Indian Country. Many Creeks believed that violence was inevitable to protect what was left of their way of life. Others took a more conciliatory tone and searched for ways to achieve a peaceful resolution. Thus, increasing Anglo advancement exacerbated both Creek-White and intratribal tensions on the Alabama frontier.